Gustavo Baner from ColorCopiesUSA

Gustavo Baner


Date Published: 2010-09-21 // Updated: 2020-08-20

Tips to design a retractable banner like a pro

Roll-up and retractable banners are of immense support to your sales and marketing at trade show booth, open house-events, retail stores, and corporate presentations.

The advertised message on the units should change at different events and occasions.

If you are presenting to a group of clients, the wording and images used will probably be more informal than at trade show events.

We put together these three images to suggest that there are different ways to design these retractables.


The picture shows examples of design of retractable banners setting different tones according to the requirement
These three examples set a different tone to your audience. Decide which one works best for you.

Tips and How-To design the best a roll-up banner ever

We'll review a couple of key pieces of information that you must know, and then we'll dive into the specifics of the design itself.

1 - Case of Use:

Identify the circumstances of use, the size of the crowd, and the goals for this tool. Will those viewing it be standing, walking or sitting down? In short, find out who is this for and where it is going to be displayed.

2 - Who is watching?

The closer you are to an object, the bigger it looks. Keep that into perspective when designingWhat is the size of the elements on display in our design? How close is the observer to the object? What are you showing? What is the eye level of the audience?

The image shows something that we know intuitively. The closer we are to an object that is being observed, the lager it looks and the more details can be seen.

Retractable Banners and posters are usually observed from distances that range from 3ft to 20 ft (about 1 to 6 meters). Make sure that your message reaches your audience large and clear.

3 - Call to Action in your Banner:

Pull up banners are marketing tools, intended to promote a service or product that your company provides. Don't be shy and offer a "Call to Action" while you entertain your audience with eye-catching designs.

4 - Review your design before it goes out to production.

There is always a sense of urgency but the time assigned to proofreading, from top to bottom, left to right can save you lots of headaches. A high quality pull up banner design requires good care.


Hi-Impact Graphic Design Suggestions

1 - Know your Numbers

Know the dimensions of the most popular retractable banners:
Stands for retractable banners come in different shapes, materials in which they are built and other constructive details. The key element for us, right now, is the image size: The dimensions of the image that the viewers get to see.

Standard Image Sizes: 33" x 78" for most of the standard units.To order standard units click HERE

Wider retractables (less popular): 48" x 78" for wider units

2 - Can you design for bleed printing?

 Yes, bleeding is within the tools that you can use as part of your creative work.

3 - Banner typefaces:

Some fonts will make reading easy while others will cause the audience to abandon. Look for clear and simple fonts. The following are suggestions based on our experience but a case-by-case evaluation might result in exceptions

  • YES: Arial and other non-serif fonts
  • NO: Times New Roman and other serif fonts
  • NO: Italic and serif fonts are very difficult to read

in this graphic we indicate the areas that are safe for copy, the center of attention and more

4 - Banner font sizes and safety margins

  • Titles: 150 to 300 point fonts, or 2 to 3-inch letters (will read from 10' to 20')
  • Copy: Never less than 36 point fonts. When there is extensive use of copy, use a minimum of 72 point fonts, and increase the line separation.
  • Safety Margins: Our suggestion is that the copy is at least 2 inches from the sides, 5 inches from the top and 10 inches from the bottom

5 - Where to place your logo or main headline?

Plan on placing it in the center of the image (left-right) and about 66 inches from the bottom of your design

6 - Image-only designs:

For Images Only: a resolution of 150 dpi is usually good. Please contain the temptation of copying an image out of a website and enlarge it.

  • Enlarged Images always loose quality, and here is why: When you stretch a small image to a larger size, the enlargement process must fill in the additional area available. The enlargement software is only capable to fill in the blank area. High-quality software such as Photoshop produces more acceptable results than low-end solutions. In short, the quality gets worse.
  • Image > Image Size > Click "Constrain Proportions" and "Resample Image" > Select "Bicubic Smoother (best for enlargment) - Change units of Width Height to Percentage and increase 10% at a time
  • Shrinking Images: If you have images that are 300 dpi or more (digital cameras can now produce such detail) you might want to downgrade your image to 150 to 180 dpi.
  • Image > Image Size > Click "Constrain Proportions" and "Resample Image" ;> Select "Bicubic Sharper (best for reductions) - Change units of Width Height to Percentage and reduce 10% at a time

7 - For Images and a Logo that Reads the Name of Your Company:

  • Create the background images first as described above but do that at 300 dpi other than 150
  • Bring the logo in with the "Place" option (Logo files should be vector files (eps / ai) for optimal results)
  • File > Place > Select the file to import
  • Make sure that the logo was created at a much higher resolution: 300 or 450 dpi

8 - Rasterized Images

If you need to rasterize a file, do so at 300 or 450 dpi. to get smooth conversion of vector fonts with minimal pixelation. Once your design is ready, you'll be able to bring the overall resolution to 150 and you'll still get a great result. But if you rasterize at 150 dpi just from the start, your outcome will most likely be unsatisfactory

9 - Design with text only:

For Text Only: Use vector editing software such as Illustrator. If you only have access to image design software, set the resolution to 300dpi or more to secure sharpness

10 - Color Space to work in:

 CMYK. (not RGB!) Colors look different on a computer monitor than they look printed on paper. CMYK will reflect the colors in your design as they print, and are more limited than RGB.

RGB colors frequently have intensities that cannot be attained in printing. If you cannot do the transformation from RGB to CMYK yourself, we will do it for you but you'll need to understand that some portions of your artwork might not look as you expected Tips to transform RGB into CMYK:

  • In Photoshop: to your Image Menu
    • Image > Mode > CMYK
    • When starting a new file select CMYK for the mode before clicking OK
  • In InDesign: Go to
    • Window > Swatches > Color
    • Double click the color that you want to change in the Swatches. Change the color mode to CMYK and color type to Process. InDesing allows for both CMYK and RGB to be in the file. Use Soft Proof to view the printing colors in CMYK.
    • Choose View > Proof Colors.

11 - Level of detail of your images

Retractable Banners and posters are usually observed from distances that range from 3ft to 20 ft (about 1 to 6 meters)

Billboards are seen from longer distances so the details are less relevant. The same billboard looked from a short distance would scare you for the poor image quality. From afar, it looks great

12 - Best file formats:

Vector files created in Illustrator and saving in certain formats allow resizing without loss of quality (files with the following extensions: eps - ai). Your print provider will surely prefer a well-created PDF (tips on how to create a PDF that works)

It is usually enlargements that create visual problems. Raster images (images created with Photoshop, Paint and other drawing software) do not scale card card-body. Raster images almost always look pixelated if you get close enough. Sometimes pixelation is evident even seen from a distance.

  • PDF is a great format, especially for files that have been created in Illustrator or InDesign
  • TIFF is a great format as long as it has been created at a higher resolution (150 dpi for images - at 300 dpi for text).
  • JPG is not a bad format in itself. It is just that lower qualities in that format can look really bad. Some desktop publishing software (such as Powerpoint, Word, and many others) create JPG files that have a very low resolution. The format in itself shows some pixelation, but a lower quality of the format will produce heavily distorted images, especially when fonts are involved.
  • JPG files are compressed files and what that means is that every time you save your jpg files, they get compressed a little bit more,so the quality of the image gets compromised (that's why many call it a "lossy" format)
  • GIF is a format that limits the number of colors, creating stepped images. Not recommended for print.


We'll look at sharpness.
The following two documents show how the same text looks in two different formats: gif and pdf

  • GIF: You can probably see that the fonts do not look as sharp as possible. In fact, if you zoom on your screen (CONTROL +) you'll see this phenomenon in detail
  • PDF: This next document should be displayed as a PDF box if you have Acrobat PDF reader on your computer. Use the magnifier to increase the size and see that there is no pixelation in the fonts.

Choose the right software to design

  1. Set clear objectives for your designed piece. In other words, what should your banner show to be effective? Who is the audience? How close will people get to the banner, etc. These questions will give you a hint on image and font sizes, topics to present, and much more.
  2. You should know which software you have access to and plan based on that fact.
    Mainly copy: If the copy is what is more important,  you might prefer to use InDesign, Publisher or  Adobe Illustrator to set up your banner.
    Mainly images: If it is all about photos, Photoshop might be a good way to go. Never use images that have been downloaded from websites. They are usually under copyrights, and their quality will be subpar.

Always Design in Real Size.

We do not want to enlarge your images since there is always a risk of losing quality with enlargements, as described above.

If you are planning to use any of the listed software, there are some valuable tips.

  • Photoshop, make sure to create a file that is 300 dpi. The images to be inserted should be at least 150 dpi. but the text will hold better if you start at a high resolution and then reduce it.
  • Illustrator, the fonts will produce a very crisp and clear design. You'll save your file as a PDF, and make sure that you embed the fonts (view PDF creation tips) If you are importing images in your Illustrator file, those images should be at least 150 dpi.
  • InDesign: Place images that are at least 150 dpi. Take advantage of all of the editing capabilities. You'll create original native content and place artwork created in Photoshop and Illustrator.
  • Publisher: use the "Publish to PDF" option in your File Menu.
  • Word: Don't do it. You will not be able to do real size. You won't have control of your fonts or images. Images will be downgraded automatically.
  • PowerPoint: Don't do it. PowerPoint documents are very low resolution and intended to be viewed on a screen.

ALERT: Your file might look different when seen in different computers depending on which resources that computer has available. There is not too much control of that.